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What Is The Difference Between A Chiropractor And A Physiotherapist?

Both chiropractors and physiotherapists aim to improve patients’ physical wellbeing but they approach it via different methodologies and philosophies. 

Chiropractors focus on spinal alignment and adjustments as part of a holistic approach to health care, believing that proper alignment can positively influence overall health and wellbeing.

Physiotherapists utilise a diverse range of techniques and modalities to address specific injuries and restore, or improve, mobility.

In this post, what is the difference between a chiropractor and a physiotherapist, we look at the different approaches, educational pathways, diagnostic methods, and conditions treated; and explain how both have an important role to play in health care.

Differences In Treatment Approaches Between A Physio And A Chiropractor

The fundamental difference in treatment approaches between chiropractors and physiotherapists lies in their focus and scope of practice.


Chiropractors look at the body as a holistic entity, albeit from the perspective of the spine and musculoskeletal system. Essentially this means they focus on addressing overall health and wellbeing through targeted treatment of the spine and spinal adjustments.

The fundamental principle behind this is that proper function of the spine is crucial for optimal musculoskeletal and nervous system function and overall health. 

By performing spinal adjustments, chiropractors aim to correct dysfunction that affects muscles and nerves in other areas of the body. By restoring proper function to these systems, they help alleviate pain, promote overall wellbeing, and allow the body to get on with healing itself.

Additionally, chiropractors include holistic advice such as addressing lifestyle factors like diet and exercise and using complementary therapies (i.e. rehabilitative exercises and massage).


Physiotherapists focus on treating specific disorders and injuries as they occur throughout the body. They employ a variety of techniques, including manual therapy, exercises, and education, to address specific musculoskeletal issues and promote recovery.

Physiotherapists emphasise restoring function, mobility, and reducing pain through tailored treatment plans, with a focus on rehabilitation and pain management.

They do not typically perform spinal adjustments but instead, utilise a broad range of other modalities to address musculoskeletal issues wherever they occur in the body.

Chiropractor And Physiotherapist: Different Educational Pathways

Chiropractors typically undergo a 4-5 year Master’s degree program accredited by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). This comprehensive training encompasses theoretical knowledge and clinical practice, with an emphasis on evidence-based techniques.

Physiotherapists typically obtain a 3-year Bachelor’s degree followed by postgraduate training to achieve chartered status. 

Chiropractor And Physiotherapist: Their Diagnosis Approaches

Chiropractors use physical examinations, range of motion, palpation, and imaging studies such as X-rays and MRIs to assess spinal health, identify dysfunction/misalignments, and develop personalised treatment plans.

Physiotherapists utilise similar physical assessments, along with functional tests and diagnostic imaging like X-rays and ultrasounds and develop tailored treatment plans.

Chiropractor And Physiotherapist: The Conditions Treated

Although chiropractors primarily focus on health conditions stemming from spinal dysfunction they also assist in helping a wide range of other musculoskeletal issues by addressing spinal health and dysfunction.

Common issues addressed by chiropractic intervention:

In addition to these conditions, chiropractors may also assist with conditions like:

and many more. By targeting the root cause of these ailments, chiropractic care aims to promote overall wellbeing and enhance quality of life.

Physiotherapists bones, joints and soft tissue – such as back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, movement issues and sports injuries 

Should You See A Chiropractor Or Physiotherapist?

Both chiropractors and physiotherapists offer valuable contributions to healthcare, each with its unique approach and philosophy. Therefore, it depends on the nature of your condition, and your personal preferences.

For musculoskeletal issues or injuries, both chiropractors and physiotherapists can provide effective treatment. Chiropractors focus on spinal adjustments and holistic health, while physiotherapists employ an array of techniques for rehabilitation and pain management throughout the body.

Conclusion: What Is The Difference Between A Chiropractor And A Physiotherapist?

Both chiropractic and physiotherapy offer valuable contributions to healthcare, each with its unique approach and philosophy. 

While chiropractors focus on targeted treatment of the spine and spinal adjustments to promote overall health, wellbeing and removal of pain, physiotherapists focus on rehabilitation and pain management.

Shannon Heard Mchiro DC

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